As the weather improves and the days get longer, many of us are participating in additional exercise.
Maybe you are a runner or triathlete or perhaps you like bike riding. You could be training for an event or simply working on improving your times. Perhaps you enjoy a hit of tennis or golf or you play football or cricket. You may be exercising for fun or you might have a specific goal in mind. Regardless, you probably want to do your best, right? And you probably want to minimise your risk of injury and illness.
I’m guessing you have spent quite a bit of your hard earned money on all the right equipment and gear to optimise your performance. But what about your most important piece of equipment? I’m talking about your body. Do you take care of yourself in order to deliver your best?
You may be working with a trainer or coach or have an exercise plan mapped out but don’t overlook the importance of additional appropriate nutrients to support all your hard work and maximise your performance.
It takes more than natural talent to be a champion. If you are spending a lot of money on the best equipment and trainers, don’t overlook your nutrition.
Key nutrients for your best sporting performance
Protein is vital for growth and maintenance of all body tissue (especially muscle and blood) as well as production of hormones and maintenance of a healthy immune system. Animal and soy protein are the best sources of the 8 essential amino acids including the branched chain amino acids. These have been shown to improve and maintain lean muscle mass as well as aid recovery from intense exercise. A whey protein powder may be useful to increase your protein intake. They are generally well absorbed.
Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred fuel source. Choose foods with a low glycaemic index which will provide sustained energy. These include wholegrains, legumes, vegetables and some fruits.
Co-enzyme Q10 is a nutrient found in every plant and animal cell and is essential for the production of energy. Although you can get it from your diet, endurance athletes may require additional supplementation.
Iron is vital for well-oxygenated blood. People who exercise regularly and intensely may have a greater demand for iron due to increased iron losses as muscles repair.
B vitamins are essential for energy production and Folate and vitamin B12 are required for cell repair and replication.
Water is vital for hydration. Drink throughout the day, not just when you are exercising. Electrolyte drinks (beware the sugar) may be useful if you are sweating a lot or exercising for more than an hour or so. Think about developing a hydration plan that takes into account your “sweat rate”.
Aerobic exercise increases your usage of oxygen which creates oxidative stress and increases free radicals. A diet rich in fruit and vegetables and green tea will provide antioxidants to help overcome this but a supplement may also be useful.
If you suffer from an injury, supplementation with a good quality fish oil high in EPA can help to reduce the associated inflammation and you might benefit from extra protein and zinc for cellular repair and collagen synthesis. Vitamin C and bioflavonoids are also required for tissue integrity.
Glucosamine supplementation has been shown to help reduce the extent of degradation of collagen in cartilage.
Magnesium is essential for regulation of muscle relaxation (opposing calcium which is responsible for muscle contraction). It is also involved in energy production, regulation of electrolytes and oxygen uptake. Increased intake is required during times of increased physical activity to reduce cramps and aid muscle recovery.
Make sure you allow recovery time as this is when your body refuels and repairs in order to avoid loss of muscle.
Don’t just focus on the day of the event
It’s important to realise there is a lot more to a winning performance than “carb loading” and drinking a sports drink. Good sports nutrition is vital for stamina and endurance, strength, concentration, focus and mental alertness as well as repair and recovery. Poor nutrition generally, (not just leading up to the day) can really compromise your results. It can take you from a “champion” to middle of the pack.
And don’t forget, if you are seriously training for a particular event, you need to practise your nutrition just like you practise every other aspect of your routine.
As a naturopath, I work with a number of weekend and amateur athletes. Taking into account their training regime as well as health issues which may be affecting them, I help them with their eating plans, food choices and supplements, both on an ongoing basis as well as leading up to and post an event. This helps them to get the right mix of macronutrients as well as essential minerals and vitamins.
I also use my knowledge of herbal medicines to make individualised tonics to help with recovery, endurance, tissue repair and immune support (immunity takes a beating due to the stresses of extensive exercise).
Herbal tonics can help with endurance, fatigue, physical stress, pain, tissue healing and adrenal support.
So, if you feel like your performance is not reflecting the quality of your equipment, take a look at your diet or call me for an appointment for a personalised plan to help you achieve your best.